We know that it’s important to keep your body active. But now scientific researchers are posing an argument for keeping your mind just as active. They are saying a diet of mental stimulation may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Research scientists at the University of California have discovered that people who read and play other mind stimulating games throughout their lives appear to be lowering the level of a certain protein in their brains that can be linked to Alzheimer’s Disease. This protein is referred to as beta amyloid in medical terms.
The scientists involved in the study used special imaging machines to see the beta amyloid in the brain. They also used neurophysiological tests and interviews to collect data from 85 participants. Some of the participants were healthy men and women in their 70’s, some were Alzheimer’s patients in their 70’s, and the rest of the study subjects were young people in their mid 20’s. The adults who engaged in a lot of mind stimulating activities had beta amyloid levels similar to the young people. Those who didn’t stimulate their minds a lot had amyloid levels similar to the Alzheimer patients. The research team therefore concluded that the more active minds had less risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Critics argue that parts of the study are not based on solid evidence. For example, they say that the interview process can’t be verified because some of the participants may have exaggerated or underestimated how much they stimulated their minds throughout their lives. There has also been scientific research that states a person’s education level, type of job, and environment can determine whether or not they get the disease.
There are other studies that do support the University of California research though. In 2001, New York’s Columbia University released results of a study that monitored close to 2,000 people over a 7 year period for signs of Alzheimer’s disease. They looked at how often they participated in common activities, including intellectual stimulation. They discovered that people who were active were 38% less likely to develop dementia.
The authors of both the California and New York studies believe that mental stimulation is just part of the equation. For instance, a lot of research has been conducted on the relationship between good nutrition and the brain. The Alzheimer’s Society of Ontario helps guide patients in their struggle with the disease. The organization’s recipe for brain boosting is keeping an active mind and maintaining a healthy diet with all the essential vitamins your body needs.
It is also important to note that evidence shows people who have a relative with Alzheimer’s; a parent or sibling, have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia than those who do not have a family history. However, the hereditary factor is still unclear and there is a great deal of research going on to determine just how much of a factor it is.
Current statistics show 500,000 Canadians have Alzheimer’s Disease and some form of dementia and just over 5 million Americans over the age of 65 suffer from it. This puts a huge strain not only on patients, but their families and the healthcare system. For these reasons, a lot of research on prevention continues to take place.
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